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Erebus: One Ship, Two Epic Voyages, and the Greatest Naval Mystery of All Time

Category: Book
By (author): Palin, Michael
Subject:  HISTORY / Canada / General
  HISTORY / Expeditions & Discoveries
  HISTORY / General
  HISTORY / Polar Regions
Awards: John Lyman Book Awards - Canadian Naval and Maritime History (2019) Winner
Publisher: Knopf Random Vintage Canada
Published: September 2019
Format: Book-paperback
Pages: 320
Size: 9.00in x 6.00in
Our Price:
$ 23.00
Availability:
In stock

Additional Notes

From The Publisher*Intrepid voyager, writer and comedian Sir Michael Palin follows the trail of two expeditions made by the Royal Navy's HMS Erebus to opposite ends of the globe, reliving the voyages and investigating the ship itself, lost on the final Franklin expedition and discovered with the help of Inuit knowledge in 2014.

The story of a ship begins after the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, when Great Britain had more bomb ships than it had enemies. The solid, reinforced hulls of HMS Erebus, and another bomb ship, HMS Terror, made them suitable for discovering what lay at the coldest ends of the earth.
    In 1839, Erebus was chosen as the flagship of an expedition to penetrate south to explore Antarctica. Under the leadership of the charismatic James Clark Ross, she and HMS Terror sailed further south than anyone had been before. But Antarctica never captured the national imagination; what the British navy needed now was confirmation of its superiority by making the discovery, once and for all, of a route through the North-West Passage.
    Chosen to lead the mission was Sir John Franklin, at 59 someone many considered too old for such a hazardous journey. Nevertheless, he and his men confidently sailed away down the Thames in April 1845. Provisioned for three winters in the Arctic, Erebus and Terror and the 129 men of the Franklin expedition were seen heading west by two whalers in late July--never to return.
    Over the years there were many attempts to discover what might have happened--and eventually the first bodies were discovered in shallow graves, confirming that it had been the dreadful fate of the explorers to die of hunger and scurvy as they abandoned the ships in the ice.
    For generations, the mystery of what had happened to the ships endured. Then, on September 9th, 2014, came the almost unbelievable news: HMS Erebus had been discovered thirty feet below the Arctic waters, by a Parks Canada exploration ship.
    Palin looks at the Erebus story through the different motives of the two expeditions, one scientific and successful, the other nationalistic and disastrous. He examines the past by means of the extensive historical record and travels in the present day to those places where there is still an echo of Erebus herself, from the dockyard where she was built, to Tasmania where the Antarctic voyage began and the Falkland Islands, then on to the Canadian Arctic, to get a sense of what the conditions must have been like for the starving, stumbling sailors as they abandoned their ships to the ice. And of course the story has a future. It lies ten metres down in the waters of Nunavut's Queen Maud Gulf, where many secrets wait to be revealed.
Review Quote*WINNER OF THE JOHN LYMAN BOOK AWARD FOR CANADIAN NAVAL AND MARITIME HISTORY

"[A]n extraordinary book. . . . The little-known tale of the southern voyage, based on copious surviving records, is enthralling, but it's Palin's refusal to speculate on the thoughts and emotions of the 129 men aboard Franklin's two ships before the last of them died that gives Erebus an eerie resonance." -Brian Bethune, Maclean's   
"[A] narrative about nineteenth-century expeditions that is at once breezy and gripping." -Russell Smith, The Globe and Mail

"[Palin's] narrative is driven by a deep sympathy for explorers and adventurers, while also being illuminated by flashes of gentle wit. . . . It's a fascinating story that he brings full-bloodedly to life, stripping away the barnacles of the past to reveal the hidden history of a ship." -Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, The Guardian
 
"Beyond terrific. I didn't want it to end." -Bill Bryson

"One robust little tub of a boat, two death-defying voyages to the ends of the earth. Palin has given us a fascinating account of the extraordinary courage of nineteenth-century British sailors and officers. Even the sturdiest vessel is dependent on luck, climate and its captain's skills as he faces ferocious weather, and Palin illuminates with enthusiasm and respect this chilly history of a bomb ship that made its name first as a polar pioneer and then later as a watery tomb. Enthralling." -Charlotte Gray, author of The Promise of Canada: People and Ideas That Have Shaped Our Country
 
"Expertly written and masterfully crafted, Palin's story of one ship's two bold explorations successfully weaves together two hundred years of history into page-turning entertainment." -Adam Shoalts, author of A History of Canada in Ten Maps: Epic Stories of Charting a Mysterious Land

"With this irresistible and often harrowing account, Michael Palin makes a convincing case that one heroic little ship embodied the golden age of polar exploration better than any other: HMS Erebus." -John Geiger, co-author of Frozen in Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition and CEO of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society

"Michael Palin is a cracking good companion on this journey of ambition, longing, triumph and tragedy. His dauntless curiosity drives us through ice-infested waters from pole to pole, and his passion for weaving together the lives of the men who lived and died on Erebus infuses every page. More than that, though, Palin's contagious spirit of exploration proves that the age of adventure lives on in us still." -Alanna Mitchell, author of The Spinning Magnet: The Force that Created the Modern World and Could Destroy It

"What more could a reader ask for? Fascinating mystery, chilling adventure, compelling characters-one a powerful woman, another made of wood and sails-and simply terrific writing by Michael Palin." -Roy MacGregor, author of Original Highways: Travelling the Great Rivers of Canada

"At this late date, and against all odds, Michael Palin has found an original way to enter and explore the Royal Navy narrative of polar exploration. Palin is a superb stylist, low-key and conversational, who skillfully incorporates personal experience. He turns up obscure facts, reanimates essential moments, and never shies away from taking controversial positions. This beautifully produced volume-colour plates, outstanding maps-is a landmark achievement." -Ken McGoogan, author of Dead Reckoning: The Untold Story of the Northwest Passage
Biographical NoteMICHAEL PALIN is a scriptwriter, comedian, novelist, television presenter, actor and playwright, and is a former president of the Royal Geographical Society. He established his reputation with Monty Python's Flying Circus and Ripping Yarns. His work also includes several films with Monty Python, as well as The Missionary, A Private Function, A Fish Called Wanda, American Friends and Fierce Creatures. His television credits include two films for the BBC's Great Railway Journeys, the plays East of Ipswich and Number 27, and Alan Bleasdale's GBH. He has written books to accompany his eight very successful travel series including Himalaya and Pole to Pole, as well as three volumes of his diaries. He is the author of a number of children's stories, the play The Weekend and the novels Hemingway's Chair and The Truth.